Sunday, April 3, 2011

Screening ReBoot - Take 2 in Freetown

My day started at 4am when the alarm clock went off. It was a bit tricky to get all 3 of us in the cabin organized and ready in the bathroom before we grabbed a quick breakfast in the dining room. Nearly 100 of us left in several vehicles just before 5 am with another 100 coming an hour later. The port gate guards were standing in awe as our white Land Rovers full of people in blue scrubs rolled out one by one - it must have looked like a mass exodus...

We got there in no time, strangely there was no traffic whatsoever and I realized that Freetown is not that big after all. :) Slowly all the vehicles arrived and people started running around like poisoned ants: some busy with distributing chairs, others hanging posters, another group trying to move the tents and tables...etc. It looked kinda funny, most of us had flash lights in our hands or on our heads. Suddenly I saw something amazing: in the middle of the chaos Dr. Gary was sitting on a chair in front of some big lights and he was reading a newspaper... That sight calmed me down like nothing else could have since that Monday. If he acts so calm and relaxed, as if it was just another normal morning... then it's gonna be an awesome day! :)

Our only goal that day was to schedule ca. 500 patients for surgeries - we didn't go there to have fun or to take pictures of people's sufferings. Only the 2 official photographers were allowed to take pictures. We are allowed to use some of them so that others can also see what we saw on Saturday.

From Friday evening people started to line up outside and our security guys were going up and down the line with some posters I gave them that showed the type of conditions we were looking for. According to them it helped a lot to screen through the line. It is always difficult to send people away, but we didn't want them to stand in line for long hours only to be turned away right before the gates.

The weather was extremely pleasant, till about lunchtime the sky was entirely cloudy and we even had some breeze all day long! What a perfect day to be outside all day without shades! :)

(Dr. Frank and Anna with possibly the youngest ever
patient who will receive a prosthetic feet!) 

The most difficult thing for a doctor or nurse is to say NO. Not because we don't want to help, but unfortunately sometimes patients come with a condition that is in too advanced stage to be treated. Those patients are often referred to Harriet (see photo), a good friend of mine from England. She is the palliative care nurse (click here if you want to read a very touching and sad story). During the screening I witnessed her unfailing dedication and compassion as she prayed and cried with the parents of a little boy. The tumor started growing 1 month ago on his face and according to Harriet the best they could do was to give him 2 weeks worth of painkillers to ease the pain. Why 2 weeks? Because in 2 weeks time he will be home with Jesus where there is no pain and no suffering...

I knew it will be emotionally very difficult for me to be there. We saw sooooo many patients with conditions you NEVER see in the western world. The desperation in people's eyes were piercing right through my heart and you just simply cannot be unmoved by it. For the photographers it was quite a challenge to take pictures of people who wish they were invisible. Often they have to live in hiding and isolation... Imagine the struggle they went through, to build up enough courage to come to our screening, to stand in line for hours, to be visible to people, to show your handicap openly, to dare to hope...

And to finish on a higher note: today we had the debriefing and it turns out we were able to see ca. 3000 people and scheduled about 500 surgeries! What an exciting thing to know that soon all these lives will be changed and through these transformational surgeries not just individuals, but their entire families and communities will have a brand new start and a brighter future!
(the patients had to go through several
stations from registration to medical history
and check ups and at the end they were
all coming to our station where
a "pre-op" photo was taken.)

If you want to see a short video on the screening click here. (it's the footage from Lewis and I who were filming that day, some stills from the photographers plus some shocking statistics.) Enjoy!

1 comment:

shorter said...

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